The Steam Deck: Should Nintendo Be Worried?
The recent announcement of Nintendo showcasing the “revised” version of the Nintendo Switch was disappointing to many of its fans, to say the least. The OLED model had several features such as a bigger screen, better audio, and an ethernet port for its dock, but all of those upgrades weren’t necessarily a compelling reason for the folks to get it on day one, especially when they already have a Switch before Nintendo dropped the bombed on them. Just as Nintendo was doing the pre-orders for the OLED Switch, Valve pulled something fast that certainly got people’s attention: They announced the Steam Deck.
We don’t have as many handhelds as we used to these days. With Sony dropping out of the contest after the failure of the PSVita and how they mishandled the product, Nintendo has the monopoly in the market. There are a couple of handheld devices that feature the usage of emulators and Android TV-based digital media players such as the Nvidia Shield, but those all cater to a somewhat niche market. Do the features in the Steam Deck make a compelling reason for Nintendo fans to switch over to Valve’s latest mini PC? Should Nintendo be worried that they finally might have a competitor?
Steam Deck Specs and Features
Combining the form factor of a Nintendo Switch and the vast game library of Steam, the Steam Deck is quite the handful. The Steam Deck features a 7-inch touchscreen display with the usual controller buttons and analog sticks on the side. At the bottom of those controls, players will also have access to touchpads that can be used in gaming or through navigating SteamOS, the primary operating system for the machine.
There are multiple storage options for the Steam Deck, each with its respective prices. The $399 base model will have 64GB eMMC internal storage, while the higher models will have 256GB and 512GB NVMe SSD internal storage which costs $529 and $649 respectively. Since the more expensive options will have an SSD as their storage, this will make load times even faster compared to the base model. The 256GB model gives customers an exclusive Steam community profile bundle, while the 512GB model has an anti-glare etched glass screen, the Steam community profile bundle that’s also present in the 256GB model, a virtual keyboard theme, and an exclusive carrying case to match. For the fine folks who are planning to get just the 64GB model, fret not, because the Steam Deck will have a microSD card slot that they can use to increase their storage even further.
The Steam Deck will be running the SteamOS 3.0 version at launch for an optimized handheld experience. However, other software and even emulators can be installed in the Steam Deck should people choose to do so. This opens up many possibilities for the Steam Deck as it can be used not only for gaming but also for desktop tasks. The 7-inch display will have a 60Hz refresh rate at 1200×800 resolution.
As for the nitty-gritty specs, the Steam Deck will be powered by an AMD APU. This includes a Zen 2 based 4-core 8-thread CPU clocking in at 2.4-3.5Hz. As for the GPU, it’ll feature an RDNA 2 architecture, a component that’s a match for the Radeon RX 6000-series graphics cards introduced in 2020.
And for the controls, future Steam Deck owners will have a D-pad, the usual A B X Y buttons, bumpers, triggers, two analog sticks, four additional buttons on the back the can be remapped, and two trackpads. Oh, and did we mention that there’s motion controls as well? For the mouse and keyboard enthusiasts out there, they can choose to plug in their favorite duo combo onto the Steam Deck, whether those peripherals are wired or wireless. The Steam Deck will also have a bluetooth function, making it possible to use wireless headphones, so players need not worry about having to use a third-party device just to use wireless earbuds/headsets unlike a certain Nintendo handheld out there.
Two Different Markets
People can’t help but compare the two devices and pit them against each other, and it’s understandable especially coming from a view that Nintendo has been dominating the handheld market for many years ever since the GameBoy. However, the Nintendo Switch and the Steam Deck caters to two different markets, resulting both not being its main competitor. If anything else, the Steam Deck will be competing with other emulator devices since as the Aya Neo which costs $870 compared to the Steam’s relatively lower pricetag.
As for Nintendo, their motto has always been about doing things that have never been done before, and as such, they’re not really into the whole console wars things that’s been going on with the PS5 and Xbox Series S/X. It’s very easy to see what the updated version of the Nintendo Switch could have been when looking at the Steam Deck and all of its features that people were actually expecting that the revised version of the Switch would have, but then again, Nintendo isn’t exactly one to excel in making technological advances in the first place.
The Steam Deck is being advertised as a technological marvel that’s meant for the “serious” gamers who want to bring their gaming PC experience on the go. When it comes out, will it affect Switch sales? The inevitable answer is yes, but not in a hyperbolic way that gamers think it will. The Switch sold like hotcakes due to two main factors: Nintendo loyalists and casual gamers. It’s the console-handheld hybrid that’s been branded with the approach of to “just have fun”.
It’s the console where your sons and daughters catch a tilapia in Animal Crossing, your parents trying to get fit using the motion controls in Ringfit Adventure, your friends and relatives duke it out in Super Smash Brothers Ultimate. Let’s not forget, the Steam Deck isn’t even out yet – we still have yet to cement its actual pros and cons. Will the battery life deplete overtime? Is there the possibility to have heating issues with a device so powerful? What about the durability of the Steam Deck itself? There are still many questions left unanswered, but one thing’s for sure: If gamers had the money of Apple loyalists/devotees, the gaming world would be a much less toxic place.